Because of the clichés, one usually thinks of Castille as a land of dusty roads and fields of wheat as far as the eye can see. And poetry has had its significant part in that idea, that’s for sure.
The thing is that it is an obvious injustice for places like Orbaneja del Castillo, a town on the very edge of Cantabria but still Castilian, and that, above all, is a spectacular site, really spectacular, trust us.
The Visigoths climbed to this lands of gorges to resist the Muslim armies who, since the eighth century, had been gaining ground on them. They asked only for bows, arrows, spears and a good ravine to prepare ambushes. So this was the ideal place, perfect to entrench themselves in defensive positions after the fight in case the infidels decided to start a siege.
It was not necessary for the surroundings to be beautiful, but it turns out that Orbaneja looks like something out of a fairytale of princes and fairies; as if Dreamworks would appear any moment to dismantle the set.
It is not only the fantastic landscape that forms the Ebro Canyon as it passes through these parts; nor that a stream and an incredible waterfall run through the town; nor that erosion has given these beautiful shapes to rocks and cliffs. It is also that the houses of Orbaneja, hanging from the hillside, form with all that a set of overwhelming beauty. They are mountain houses that survive, crowded together, in a place that once housed Mozarabs and Jews, when the Arab threat was already history, and it was a matter of repopulating this beautiful enclave.
Was there anything else missing from Orbaneja? Well, yes! It needed the Templar Knights to come and build the San Albín Hospital right here, to give shelter and help the pilgrims on their way to Compostela.
And what about the Castle in its name? Perhaps there was one at some stage or maybe what happened was, that the shapes of the calcareous rocks high up, reminded so much of a fantastic fortress that they were good enough to call it like that. Without ruling out, of course, the option that the castle had become invisible because of the spell of some angry wizard. Sometimes, these things happen too.